New York/New Jersey
How many years have you worked with Kids Kicking Cancer?
How did you begin with martial arts?
When I was 4 years old, my grandma and I walked past a Taekwondo studio near my house. Allegedly, I pressed my face against the glass in awe of the high kicks and loud “gi haps.” My grandma signed me up for classes that day and the rest is history.
What lessons have you learned over the years from practicing or teaching martial arts?
Through practicing martial arts, I’ve learned humility, self-discipline, and self-control. To improve in martial arts, I had to relinquish my ego, and learn to respect myself, my teammates, and my opponents. Teaching martial arts has taught me the power of compassion. Developing a high level of empathy for my students is crucial for establishing relationships and teaching effectively. I’ve gained so much perspective from my students in the Heroes Circle, and each session they teach me so much about how to rise above adversity.
What inspired you to join Kids Kicking Cancer as a martial arts therapist?
My mother passed away from leukemia in 2016. I was devastated but determined to carry on her legacy and learn from her character. She was also a black belt in Taekwondo and approached every moment of her life-and every moment of her disease-with strength, faith, and a bit of humor. The love she had for my family grew and shined brightly, and I continue to be inspired by her every day. My mother lives through me in my work at KKC and acts as a continuous source of inspiration as I am faced with all the ups and downs of working with our wonderful children. Being a martial arts therapist has been the most rewarding and humbling way I feel that I can honor my mother. It has also taught me that the power of martial arts doesn’t come from the striking and submissions but is rooted in its ability to bring inner peace and empowerment.
What do you love most about Kids Kicking Cancer’s mission?
The children in the Heroes Circle are experiencing high levels of pain and trauma with limited opportunities to express themselves. It is a privilege to create a space for these children to be open about their experiences and practice techniques that ultimately help them manage their pain and process their trauma.
Do you have a favorite KKC story or experience you would like to share?
When I first started in the hospital, I met a girl who was bedridden and eager to make a friend. We would chat about her pets, and when we practiced power breathing and did body scans, I could tell she was really focusing and trying her best. She was discharged after a few sessions, but when I came back a month later, she was back in the hospital. Her eyes lit up when I walked in her room, and when I asked if she had been practicing her power breathing, she told me that she did daily. That moment has stood out to me and warms my heart when I think back to it.
What would your superpower be and why?
I would love to be able to fly. I’ve always envied birds, and think it would be so serene to soar through the sky.
You have your own late-night talk show, who do you invite as your first guest?